Abortion Wars Intensify over Healthcare Reform

By writer, Linda Feldmann | The Christian Science Monitor, August 22, 2009 | Go to article overview

Abortion Wars Intensify over Healthcare Reform


writer, Linda Feldmann, The Christian Science Monitor


Efforts to reform the healthcare system have added new spark to America's long-running abortion debate.

Anti-abortion groups are posting videos and running ads saying that health-reform legislation in Congress would mandate federal funding of abortions. Pro-abortion rights groups - and President Obama - say that's false. Two independent truth-squad groups, Factcheck.org and Politifact.org, also call the claim false, but Politifact acknowledges that the issue of federal subsidies for abortion is a more difficult question.

Thus is launched the latest round in the abortion wars - one that threatens to consume the reform effort this fall.

"The abortion issue is a very serious one for Christian conservatives and a potential deal breaker for healthcare reform," says John Green, an expert on religion and politics at the University of Akron, in Ohio. "It is much more serious potentially than the 'death panel' claims if it involves actually paying for abortions."

Efforts to stay 'abortion neutral'

In the drafting of health reform legislation, some members of Congress have worked to keep it "abortion neutral" - that is, no more permissive or restrictive than current law on the use of federal dollars for abortion. Currently, under the 1976 Hyde Amendment, federal funding for abortion is barred in the Medicaid system, which provides health coverage for low-income Americans. Exceptions are made for rape, incest, and danger to the life of the pregnant woman. Some states use their own funds to cover Medicaid abortions.

In late July, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed a compromise that sought to address the concerns of both abortion opponents and supporters. It would allow the so-called "public option" - a proposed new government-run insurance plan - to cover abortion, but without using federal funds. Dollars could be taken from the premiums of beneficiaries for that purpose. In addition, private plans that are included in a proposed new insurance marketplace could also offer abortion coverage, but would bar the use of federal subsidies.

A meaningless compromise?

Abortion opponents call the compromise meaningless and say that federal subsidies given to those currently uninsured to help them afford insurance would mean that, in effect, the government is supporting abortion. …

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Abortion Wars Intensify over Healthcare Reform
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